Diving & Marine Conservation for AOW and above

Coral Cay Conservation
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Coordinator | Tessa
Coordinator | Tessa
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.


Improve your dive skills in the heart of the coral triangle
Experience life in a rural area of the Philippines
Help us to help local communities by contributing to vital conservation efforts
Learn how to identify a host of fishes, invertebrates and corals
Dive on Napantao Marine Reserve, a reef with over 50% coral cover
This is your chance to improve your species ID skills and contribute to the creation of marine protected areas in the heart of the coral triangle. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

Join us the beautiful warm, clear waters of Southern Leyte, Philippines, all whilst contributing to the protection and restoration of the area's coral reefs. Our expedition site is based right by the ocean’s edge around the corner from South Wall, one of the best locations for diving in Southern Leyte. 

Coral Cay Conservation has been operating in the Philippines since 1995 and moved to our current location on Panaon Island in 2002. Since then we have been working closely with our project partners the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PRRCFI) and the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte (PGSL) to survey and monitor the coastal resources of Sogod Bay.

How does it work?

This project is for anyone who is already PADI Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) certified. If you are not please see our volunteer program for 'Dive Trainees'. On arrival you will be taken on a quick check dive with our resident scuba instructor on site, to make sure that your skills are up to scratch. Once signed off you will be able to get stuck straight into the two-week Skills Development Program (SDP), where we teach volunteers how to identify the survey species and of course how to survey. Once a volunteer has successfully completed this training they are free to join our research teams. If you are keen to gain further courses whilst on site we are happy to take any volunteers staying with us for longer durations through further dive training, such as the PADI rescue course (4 weeks minimum stay) or the professional Dive Master course (12 weeks minimum stay). 

The bigger picture

Our research teams on site consist of trained volunteers, local scholars and staff. Once trained through our unique two-week Skills Development Programme, you will become an integral part of our survey team collecting ecological data to assess the health of coral reefs within Southern Leyte. Intensive baseline surveys were conducted pre-2013, enabling us to map the various habitats and understand the ecological status of residing communities; concluding areas of high biodiversity or those that require greater conservation management. 

Following 2013 and to date, we are successfully undertaking our following phase. The aims of this next phase are to supply local barangays (Filipino villages) and provincial governments with scientific data to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the prosperity of local, marine resources. You will conduct scientific surveys on coastal areas around Southern Leyte, collecting data on the abundance and diversity of fishes, invertebrates and substrates, whilst also assessing the perceived impact on the reefs. The goal of collecting this data is to provide recommendations on the suitability of the reef for an MPA or whether limited, local resources should be directed to other areas. 

In addition, where an MPA is already established, surveys and data will be utilised to inform managers on the status of the protected area, providing recommendations where required. Following surveys, and whilst still active within the region, CCC will then implement their various education and capacity building initiatives to ensure success through compliance and local stakeholder empowerment for the future generations of Southern Leyte.

The expedition site

You will be based at our permanent expedition site. The accommodation is dormitory style and as we are in a remote area living conditions are fairly rural. There is a large communal area and classroom providing lots of space for meals, lectures and relaxing at the end of a long days diving. You will have the ocean on your doorstep and South Wall, one of the top 10 diving sites in Southern Leyte metres down the coast, and a very short walk from the base you will find a beautiful white sand beach and the mooring for our trusty dive boat, Nudihunter.

What will you do?

What you get up to each day depends on what stage of the expedition you are at. During SDP you will learn how to identify 14 hard coral lifeforms plus various substrates and oceanic organisms, approx. 30 fish species plus around 10 subspecies, and 30 invertebrates. 

Once you have successfully completed the SDP tests you are able to start to survey. You will be one of a four-person team, surveying transects parallel to the shore along 100 metre long transect lines.  In a standard Marine Protected Area, assessment four transects are conducted inside the MPA and four outside, split evenly between two depth contours. One complete transect is comprised of four 20 m replicates. Detailed data is recorded for different elements and there are a number of specific roles in the survey including:

  • Physical: Records environmental factors, determines the start point and direction of survey and controls the activities of the ‘fish’ surveyors 
  • Fish: Records target fish along a belt transect including estimating size for some species 
  • Invertebrates and Impacts: Records target invertebrates and anthropogenic impacts along a belt transect
  • Substrate: Records substrates (including hard coral species) along a point intercept transect 

Alongside surveys, we also occasionally welcome local children onto the site as part of the 'Reef Rangers' education program, in addition to in school education courses and community days. This is a great opportunity for you to get involved and meet our local community members. 

Who will you work with?

You will work alongside fellow volunteers, Filipino scholars and our wonderful staff team. 

The staff team generally consists of 4 roles:

  • Field Base Manager - in charge of the whole site, and responsible for all other staff, volunteers and scholars
  • Project Scientist - In charge of the science on site, and responsible for working with our in-country stakeholders and partners 
  • Science Officer - In charge of delivering SDP and leading the survey work
  • Scuba Instructor - In charge of all dive training on site

We also have a number of local staff on site who act in the roles of boat operator, deckhand, compressor operator and chef (who prepares evening meals only). We also have two very friendly dogs on site.

What requirements do we have?

We require all of our volunteers to be at least 18 years of age, and you must be able to pass our medical. This is a simple 5 page document which would need to be completed by your GP or a local Dr. This is then either cleared in house or if needs be we send it to the Diving Diseases Research Centre for further clearance. Please note it will not be possible for you to pay your deposit or be accepted onto the expedition until we have conducted a prior assessment of the PADI Medical statement (this will be issued to you for completion). You do not need to have any science training to join us as we will provide all necessary training on site. You will need to provide us with proof of your Diving certifications.

In addition to your personal kit volunteers will need to provide their own dive kit, consisting of the items below. Please note it is not possible to rent these on site and anyone arriving without an item will need to purchase one in country:

  • Mask & snorkel
  • Fins (open foot)
  • Wet suit hard soled booties
  • Dive compass
  • Diving log book
  • Diver’s cutting tool (knife, line cutter)
  • Dive computer (preferable) or digital depth gauge with bottom timer
  • A4 size dive slate (or 2 x A5)
  • 2 x pens and pencils
  • Wetsuit (a 3mm long suit is ideal), or a rash vest & board shorts
  • Underwater torch (not required for those staying two weeks only)
  • Cyalume light sticks (not required for those staying for two weeks only)

We are happy to lend all volunteers regulators, BCDs, weights, and tanks during their stay.

What does the fee cover?

Your expedition fee covers your accommodation, meals, science training, diving costs (including marine park fees) ECP First Aid Certification, Reef Check EcoDiver certification (4 week+ stays only), taxi from Tacloban airport to site. The other costs you need to consider are your initial travel to/from Tacloban and your return site - Tacloban transport, insurance, visa, personal kit, spending money and your GP's charge for the medical forms.

Typical day

What you get up to on a daily basis depends on what stage of the training you are at but some elements are pretty much always the same. The below schedule is, of course, subject to change due to the flexible nature of expeditions, weather, and health.

A typical CCC week:

Day 1: SDP Training/Surveying 

Day 2: SDP Training/Surveying

Day 3: SDP Training/Surveying

Day 4: SDP Training/Surveying 

Day 5: SDP Training/Surveying

Day 6: Recreational Diving 

Day 7: Day off/Community work

A typical CCC Day:

07:00 – Breakfast

07:30 – Chores (everyone helps with these, it can include making breakfast for the team (in pairs), sweeping, mopping, cleaning up after breakfast, etc.).

08:30 - SDP Training/Surveying 

12:00 – Lunch (prepared by pairs of volunteers/staff on a rota basis)

13:00 – SDP Training/Surveying 

18:00 - Dinner (prepared by a local chef)

SDP is taught through a combination of classroom-based and practical diving (or very occasionally snorkeling) sessions. It’s generally, a classroom-based session followed by a snorkel or dive ‘pointy’ and then the same again in the afternoon. SDP is based on an extended version of the globally recognised ‘Reef Check’ methodology. 

Once SDP trained we aim to do 2 survey dives a day over 5 days, a fun dive on the 6th day and then a rest/de-gas day on the 7th. This is of course dependant on weather and health. All volunteers are also certified in the Expedition Care Programme which is an extensive First Aid Course adapted to expedition situations. 

Free-time activities

Please note we are in a very remote area so externally planned activities in the area are rather limited, there is a town nearby, but it is very small! When there are no CCC activities scheduled volunteers are of course welcome to sign off-site and go for walks, a swim/snorkel, read, write letters, chat, etc. In the evening we have strict drinking rules but one night a week is ‘party’ night when these are relaxed, and the team usually heads to a local karaoke bar or has a party on the beach.  On Sundays, people either relax on site or will plan a larger outing, such as a hike to a local waterfall.

Please note that due to the regular diving schedule, diving in your free time is not possible (for safety reasons). 



In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (fluently)
Required Documents
CCC Medical forms, Passport scan, Next of kin form, Travel details form, Insurance details and declaration, PADI waivers and Proof of Advanced Open Water certification
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Must hold a PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water certificate (or equivalent from a recognised diving body)
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

What's Included

Services by Coral Cay Conservation

The fees above include your:

  • Field accommodation 
  • Meals
  • ECP First Aid course certification (dependant on successful completion of course)
  • Reef Check EcoDiver Certification (min stay of 4 weeks - dependant on successful completion of course)
  • Taxi fee from Tacloban Airport to site
  • BCD, regulator, tanks (and air), weights and weight belt hire
  • Skills Development Programme Training
  • Expedition Care Programme (ECP) First Aid Training and certification
  • Surveying (minimum stays apply)
  • Recreational Diving 
  • Field staff supervision 
  • Contribution toward Coral Cay's local scholarship scheme
The fees above do not include your:
  • International and domestic flights
  • In-transit accommodation 
  • Visas
  • Return transfers between the project site and Tacloban airport
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal diving equipment 
  • Personal spending money
  • Personal items

Anyone joining us for at least 4 weeks is welcome to undertake their PADI Rescue course 

Anyone joining us for at least 12 weeks is welcome to undertake their PADI Dive Master course 

Airport Pickup at D. Z. Romualdez Airport

We provide airport pick-up (from our nearest airport - Tacloban).

You will need to fly to Manila, likely stay one night and then fly on to Tacloban airport in time for the 13:30 rendezvous time on the start date of your expedition. On arrival, you will be met by a representative and taxi driver who will drive you to our site, which is about a 4-hour drive south of Tacloban. 

For the return journey, you can choose to take a taxi (4000 PhP) or alternatively you would be welcome to take public transport (significantly cheaper but can take much longer if there are delays). Please note that on your return flight you will need an afternoon flight from Tacloban to give you enough time to get to the airport. 


Volunteers will be based in Napantao Dive Resort, Napantao, San Francisco, Sogod Bay. 

Up to 35 volunteers and staff can be accommodated and there is a good supply of potable water and fresh water for showering, 24hr electricity supply (240v) is available. Being located within Sogod Bay, the expedition base is ideally situated for coral reef training and research activities. The reefs directly in front of the base contain some of the most beautiful and biologically diverse hard coral colonies in the world. 

Sleeping accommodation is in shared, single-sex dormitories. Each volunteer is provided with a bunk, mattress and bed linen, and all beds are protected with mosquito netting. Each bedroom has its own toilet room, with toilets 'flushed' using buckets of seawater. 

Dorm Room
Food & Beverages

Breakfast and lunch are prepared by volunteers and staff on a rota and everyone will be expected to take their turn in producing communal meals. Evening meals are prepared by local catering staff. 

Meals are based upon local cuisine and seasonal availability of locally produced food. Meals are served in the communal dining area and mealtimes are fixed in order that the day's survey activities can be effectively managed. 

Vegetarians/vegans are catered for on all expeditions. If you are vege/vegan or have any other dietary requirements, please let us know asap so that we can ensure that we can cater for you.

Snacks and cold beverages are available, but this is at an extra cost.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is D. Z. Romualdez Airport (TAC) in Tacloban. We assist you to find cheap flights to Philippines.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Philippines provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Philippines you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Philippines.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

We have start dates every four weeks and are open pretty much all year round. Please note that it is unfortunately not possible for volunteers to arrive out of sync with the dates specified below. Volunteers are welcome to join us from a duration of two weeks but we recommend a stay of at least four if you want to be able to fully experience every aspect of an expedition, including putting your survey skills into action.

Although our start dates are set, and we have a minimum stay allowance of two weeks, you are welcome to join us for as long as you like above this. Many volunteers join for full weeks but you are most welcome to stay for part weeks if that helps with your travel plans.  

Please see a list of Qualified Diver start dates below:


4th December 2019

Our site will be closed for 2 weeks over the Christmas period, from the 18th December 2019 until January 2020. 


15th January 2020

12th February 2020

11th March 2020

8th April 2020

6th May 2020

3rd June 2020

1st July 2020

29th July 2020

26th August 2020

23rd September 2020

21st October 2020

18th November 2020

Our site will be closed for 2 weeks over the Christmas period, from the 18th December 2020 until January 2021. 

Your start date is the day you will arrive on site. The rendezvous time is 13:30 at Tacloban airport (Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport). You will need to fly from your home country to Manila via an Asian country of your choice, and then on to Tacloban. Due to the flight times you will likely need to spend one night in Manila before traveling on to Tacloban the next morning. Tacloban airport is very small so any flight arriving until about 13:15 is fine. On arrival, you will be met by a representative and taxi driver who will drive you to our site, which is about a 4-hour drive south of Tacloban. 

This program is paused due to COVID-19

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2 - 20 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
2 weeks (min. stay)
3 weeks
4 weeks
5 weeks
6 weeks
8 weeks
10 weeks
12 weeks
14 weeks
16 weeks
20 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$465 /week

The organization charges its fees in GBP. The price table in USD is subject to currency fluctuation. Coral Cay Conservation will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Coral Cay Conservation during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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We refund your fees if Coral Cay Conservation cancels your trip
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All program fees are charged directly by Coral Cay Conservation.

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Diving & Marine Conservation for AOW and above

This is your chance to improve your species ID skills and contribute to the creation of marine protected areas in the heart of the coral triangle.


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Diving & Marine Conservation for Dive Trainees Southern Leyte, Philippines Coral Cay Conservation
This is your chance to learn how to dive or improve your skills whilst contributing to the establishment and assessment of Marine Protected Areas.

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